Updated on May 24 to reflect that one of the Qataris convicted in this crime was pardoned, not two.
The UAE’s president has pardoned
two one of the five Qataris who this week were convicted of insulting the country’s royal family on social media, the Emirates’ state news agency has said.
Citing a desire to “strengthen the close fraternal relations between the leaderships and peoples of the two brotherly countries,” Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed al-Nahyan ordered the release of the defendant yesterday, WAM reports.
According to the National, the convicted men faced lengthy jail terms and were ordered to pay large fines after being found guilty of circulating insulting images of the Emirati royal family on Twitter and Instagram.
Their lawyer argued that while one of the defendants had purchased the SIM cards for the phones on which the material was found, he did not use them himself.
Many of the Twitter accounts named in court remain online, and some of the offending material also includes doctored, derogatory images of Qatar’s royal family.
One Qatari, named by the National as Hamad Al Hammadi, 33, was ordered to spend 10 years in jail and pay a Dh1 million (~QR991,000) fine. Four others were convicted in absentia and slammed with the same fine, as well as life sentences.
Earlier this week, several UAE residents tweeted their displeasure with the verdict, saying it was not harsh enough.
But others called for restraint, saying the sentences came at a bad time for the two countries, which have been working to mend relations frayed by last year’s diplomatic spat over foreign policy differences.